"Uh," I began, "uh, thanks for..." "You know," he said, interrupting me, "she is a primitive sort. Simple. But on the whole a rather decent sort. Might even say, splendid, in her own way."

"Jennie? Yeh," I said, falling in to his mood. "A good kid. Came out here on her own, opened up this place and made a go of it through her own perseverance and... huh, charm."

"Plural, you mean," he said.

I thought I detected a twinkle in those cold, blue icicles. Of a sudden I realized that I liked this strange little man. Why, I didn't know. Yet I felt that there was something about him which compelled my liking.

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I grinned down at him. He smiled, a rather shy twisting of the lips. Then the smile was wiped away by an intent, questioning look.

"As I started to say, before the ruckus began, you look like an intelligent sort. I've come to this place to find someone."

I put my hand on his arm, turned my face from him and looked to where Bull had fallen. The big mucker had skipped my mind entirely. I was just in time to see his friend, a ratty individual, called Jimsy, assisting him through the door. Then I turned back to the stranger.

"As I was saying, I came to find someone. A man named Alex Sorensen," the little man said.

Sorensen, Sorensen, I thought. The name was familiar, but..

"What about this Sorensen?" I asked.

"I have to deliver something to him," he said. "I heard he works at the Crow's Nest."

"Could be," I said. "Lots of Swedes up there."

"He's not a Swede," the stranger said. "He's a Norwegian."

"What's the difference? He's big, blond and dumb, like the rest of them." "You work there also?" he asked.

"Yeah. I'm a machine man."'

His eyes narrowed in bewilderment. "What's that?" he asked.

"A fancy name for a dynamite tapper," Jennie said. She was standing before us, her right arm loaded with dishes, the topmost two bearing steaks from which smoke faintly curled. She set them before us and a couple of side dishes of potatoes and vegetables, and said:

"I don't know whether that's been broiled like you want it. But it's done like I'd want it. Now don't let me see any of that steak on the plate when I come for your dessert order."

There wasn't any, either. Jennie could cook like she had the gift. The stranger's eyes were alight with pleasure and he exuded a warmth which I imagined was unusual with him, after the first bite.

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As I said in the beginning, he was a precise little man. It showed in the way he cut his steak. Not fussy. Precise! The pieces were all of one pat- tern and size. I imagined he was that way in everything he did. Nothing ever to be left to chance. The kind of man who was meant to be an auditor, or clerk in some lawyer's office. I could see him drawing up briefs, meticulously, briefs like traps, from which there were no loopholes of escape. Everything in its place and a place for everything. We got back to Sorensen, after our coffee.

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Neural Network Novellas: Wanted - Dead Man #5